News in Brief
California: Five Southern California cops were placed on leave in June 2021 after a video surfaced showing them attacking suspects, according to reports by the Washington Post. On June 10, 2021, four Glendale police officers went on paid leave while an investigation was opened into their response to a reported shoplifting at a Dicks Sporting Goods store. The video showed the officers punching the suspect and kicking him in the head. Neither the officers nor the suspect were identified by police, but local TV station KCAL ran a photo of the suspect’s injured face and said he was 17 years old, adding that his sister, Melissa Navarette, said watching the video had left her family “traumatized.” Then on June 19, 2021, a San Bernardino sheriff’s deputy was placed on leave while an investigation was opened into an incident two days before when he chased a motorcycle driven by Willie Jones after attempting a traffic stop. The unidentified deputy cornered Jones in a Victorville car dealership, where video showed his surrender: He put his hands in the air and dropped to the ground, and then the deputy kicked him in the head.
California: On July 20, 2021, a Southern California agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) became the first federal law enforcement officer charged in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. According to a report by Politico, Mark Ibrahim, of Orange County, California, is accused of entering a restricted area with a weapon—his DEA-issued pistol—and having it on the Capitol grounds, as well as lying to investigators when he claimed to be there at the behest of the FBI. All three charges are felonies. He has pleaded not guilty. His attorney insists Ibrahim did not “flaunt” his weapon or DEA badge, but photos submitted with his charges show him brandishing his “creds” for the camera. At the time, he was a probationary employee of the agency and had given notice of his intent to resign. He was suspended from duty in March 2021, when evidence surfaced of his participation in the mob of supporters of former President Donald J. Trump (R) attempting to disrupt Congressional certification of the electoral victory of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D). More than 500 people have been charged in the incident so far.
Florida: A fired Florida Sheriff’s Deputy was sentenced on July 14, 2021, to 12.5 years in prison for planting drugs on innocent motorists during traffic stops, according to a report by the Tallahassee Democrat. Zachary Wester, 28, was convicted by a jury in May 2021 on 19 of 67 charges ranging from misdemeanor perjury to felonies, including racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, and false imprisonment. He began working for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in 2016, though his crimes didn’t begin until 2017 when investigators think he started juicing his drug-arrest record in an attempt to join the narcotics unit. Prosecutors secured the sentence—which is far longer than the statutory minimum—because the former deputy falsified court records used to wrongfully convict innocent citizens he was sworn to protect.
Hawaii: Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm announced charges on June 1, 2021, against three city cops involved in the fatal shooting two months earlier of a 16-year-old fleeing in a vehicle they alleged that he stole. According to a report by Civil Beat, the announcement came on the heels of a May 2021 grand jury decision not to indict officers Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee, and Christopher Fredeluces for the death of Sycap Iremamber. That prompted Police Chief Rade Vanic to call Alm’s action “highly unusual.” Alm responded that discrepancies between body-cam footage and the officers’ written report persuaded him to present the case again, this time to a judge. A preliminary hearing will be scheduled later in the summer. Thom, 42, is a five-year veteran of the police force charged with second-degree murder for firing the shot that killed Iremamber. Ah Nee, 26, a three-year veteran, is charged with attempted murder for shooting at the dead teen’s brother and passenger, Mark Sykap. Fredeluces, 40, a ten-year veteran, is also charged with attempted murder for missing the shot he took at Iremamber from “point-blank range.”
Louisiana: In a New Orleans federal courtroom on June 15, 2021, another nail was driven into the coffin where Chad A. Scott’s 20-year career with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) now lies buried under a total of nine guilty verdicts juries have returned against him for abusing his position. According to a report by nola.com, the 53-year-old fired agent earned his latest convictions for two counts stemming from stealing the property of arrestees. His fellow agent and co-defendant, 45-year-old Rodney P. Gemar, was convicted on the same charges. At Scott’s earlier trial in 2019, the jury found him guilty of seven charges, including perjury, obstruction of justice and falsifying government records, taking the word of three drug traffickers and two former members of Scott’s DEA task force—already convicted for their roles in the crimes—that he lied to win drug-trafficking convictions and confiscated asset forfeitures. He had been free on bond since his 2017 arrest but is now in jail to await sentencing.
Louisiana: On June 30, 2021, a grand jury in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, indicted Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Chapman for malfeasance, saying he lacked reasonable suspicion of a crime when he handcuffed a man who then died. According to a report by New Orleans TV station WWL, Chapman and other deputies went to the property of William Walls in March 2021 to search for a suspect. The 68-year-old gave them permission to inspect a residential trailer, but he became agitated when he feared his son might be inside. Chapman then handcuffed Walls and left him alone in a patrol car while he and the other deputies conducted their search. When they finished, they found Walls was having a medical crisis and initiated CPR until an ambulance arrived and transported him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Sheriff Steve Prator insisted that his own investigation had cleared Chapman of any wrongdoing and that the deputy would ultimately be acquitted of the charge against him.
Michigan: The former TV host of “To Catch a Predator,” Chris Hansen, was briefly detained after turning himself into authorities in Shiawassee County, Michigan, on July 2, 2021. According to a report by The Wrap, the 61-year-old was taken into custody for failing to deliver the full uncut video of an October 2020 police sting operation that nabbed three men accused of soliciting sex from minors. Court documents haven’t identified them, but social media posts by Hansen indicated one is a 32-year-old prison guard from Elsie, Michael Lott, who demanded an unedited copy of the video to examine it for exonerating evidence. A judge agreed and ordered Hansen to produce the footage, issuing a bench warrant for his arrest when he failed to do so. Hansen’s attorney claimed his client’s failure was a mix-up. Hansen, who called his arrest a “non-event,” later said that he had complied with the order.
Mississippi: A six-year veteran Mississippi policeman was fired after his arrest on child pornography charges on July 15, 2021. According to a report by Law & Crime, Sgt. Joshua Christopher Stockstill, 29, was taken into custody at the Picayune Police Department where he worked within hours after the FBI released a photo of “John Doe 44,” which had been captured from “footage of child sexual abuse material” by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). He faces federal charges of producing and distributing child pornography, as well as lustful touching of a child.
New Jersey: A New Jersey police department was sued on June 8, 2021, by two male officers claiming their commanding officer—who is also male—sexually harassed them, according to a report by Trenton radio station WKXW. When the men made their accusations almost a year earlier against head detective Lt. John McKenna, the South River Police Department (SRPD) placed him on paid leave and opened an investigation. The two officers, Joseph Guiamano and Sgt. Jonathan Minacepelli said McKenna made lewd remarks, groped their genitals, and loitered near urinals they used to leer at them. Minacapelli, a 15-year SRPD veteran, accused the department of discrimination in its treatment of his complaint because he is Hispanic. His suit notes incidents dating to 2012 and 2017, which SRPD told him was outside the statute of limitations. His attorney, Juan Hernandez, is also representing Guiamano, a 20-year veteran of the force. He said his supervisor brushed off his reported incidents—which date from 2019 and early 2020—saying of McKenna, “I know how he is.” Guiamano also said he feared reporting the abuse to Chief Mark Tinitigan, a friend of McKenna, before he and Minacapelli finally went together to Tinitigan in June 2020.
New Jersey: A cop in Clifton, New Jersey, was ordered to remain in jail on June 15, 2021, awaiting trial on charges he has been sexually abusing a 16-year-old relative since she was 14. According to a report by NorthJersey.com, Officer Frank Castro-Ramirez, 39, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who won a Purple Heart in the Middle East, has been with his department since 2013. If found guilty of the alleged sexual assaults, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
New York: On June 10, 2021, eleven years after a Black college student was fatally shot by a white police officer in Pleasantville, New York, the Westchester County District Attorney announced that she is reopening the case. According to a report by TV station WBTS in Boston, where 20-year-old Danroy “DJ” Henry was from, D.A. Miriam Roach will also be reviewing the fatal 2011 police killing of another Black man, William Chamberlain. Grand juries failed to return indictments in either case. No one disputes that former Pleasantville Police Officer Aaron Hess, who was 33 at the time, ended up on the hood of Henry’s moving car when he shot and killed the Pace University sophomore. But Hess’ testimony—that Henry drove toward him—was directly contradicted by passengers in the car where the student died. Chamberlain, a 68-year-old veteran who suffered mental illness, was fatally shot in his home. Roach will review the investigations into both shootings and their grand jury presentations.
New York: A former guard at the Duchess County Jail in Poughkeepsie, New York, is on his way to prison after being sentenced on June 28, 2021, to a term of 25 years to life for the fatal stabbing of his ex-wife. According to a report by the Poughkeepsie Journal, Timothy Alexander was involved in a dispute with Terrie DeGelormo over custody of their son, Ryan, when the jail guard stabbed her 43 times outside her mother’s home on the morning of November 5, 2018, and then fled. DeGelormo died at the scene. The couple’s first child died of liver failure just before her third birthday in 2016, and they divorced the following year. Alexander remarried and has two more children. His employment at the county lockup was terminated in May 2019. His four-year-old son by DeGelormo, is being raised by her parents.
Oklahoma: A police officer in an Oklahoma City suburb was sentenced to an 18-year prison term on June 30, 2021—one year for each of those in the life of Moore High School senior Emily Gaines when it was cut short in a fatal car crash in December 2019. According to a report by local TV station KFOR, Moore Police Department Officer Kyle Loyd pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter after the off-duty incident, in which his vehicle barreled into Gaines’ car, killing the young member of the swim team and choir on her way to take the ACT. Loyd said he was rushing to a “Shop With a Cop” event.
South Carolina: A former Sheriff’s deputy in Florence, South Carolina, was sentenced to federal prison on June 17, 2021, for his role in running an illegal gambling ring —including selling seized gaming machines back to co-defendants. According to a report by SCNow.com, Mark Edward Fuleihan, 49, abused his position to abet eight co-defendants in hiding the gaming operation from an investigation by South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) authorities between July 2014 and his April 2020 arrest. When he was fired just before that by then-Sheriff William Barnes, Fuleihan had worked for the department for 25 years. So far, he and seven of his co-defendants have pleaded guilty to federal charges. State charges remain pending.
Texas: Former Houston police officer Steven Bryant, 47, pleaded guilty on June 1, 2021, to federal civil rights charges stemming from a botched “no-knock” warrant raid in 2019 that left a couple dead in their home. According to a report by Houston Public Media, Bryant’s fellow officer Gerald Goines, 56, continues to maintain his innocence on charges that he and Bryant made up a story about a confidential informant, who allegedly pointed them to the home of Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58. Both were fatally shot in the raid, along with their pet dog. Goines and four other officers involved were injured. He was indicted for first-degree murder, along with fellow officer Felipe Gallegos. Tuttles’ neighbor, Patricia Ann Garcia, pleaded guilty in March 2021 to making a false 911 report that the couple was dealing drugs. Ten other police officers in the raid have also been charged with crimes.
Washington: On June 14, 2021, a prison guard employed by the Washington Department of Corrections (WADOC) was charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of his roommate, according to a report by the Everett Herald. Emanuel Perez, 44, pleaded not guilty to slaying 35-year-old Terrance Moore, who was shot seven times and died on May 14, 2021, in the parking lot outside the apartment the two men shared. A woman cleaning her car said she witnessed a brief exchange between the men before shots were fired. Afterward, Perez left on foot. Police quickly caught up with him outside a nearby bar, where they found him with two bags of marijuana and a scale, as well as what appeared to be cocaine and methamphetamine residue in his pockets and inside a pipe. He was also carrying a knife and a gun, which a third friend claimed Perez had taken from his home after saying he thought Moore was trying to kill him. A 14-year veteran of WADOC, Perez was arrested and placed on unpaid administrative leave. He is being held in the Snohomish County Jail pending a $500,000 bail.
Wyoming: A former judge was headed to a Wyoming prison on June 1, 2021, after pleading no contest to charges of stalking and sexually assaulting women he represented as an attorney or whose cases he heard in Tortington Municipal Court. According to a report by the Casper Star-Tribune, the state Supreme Court had already disbarred 72-year-old Gregory Lee Knudsen in 2019 for the incidents, which dated back as far as 2012. One woman who read a victim impact statement described how Knudsen extorted sex from her in exchange for favorable treatment of her case. Another victim also read her impact statement, but Knudsen’s attorney said she’d already provided similar testimony, so his client didn’t want to pay court costs associated with her appearance. Special District Judge Dawnessa Snyder told Knudsen, “I still don’t think you get it,” so she said she was sending him to the state penitentiary to think about it.
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